lifestyle

"I'm sick of Facebook emotional porn."

“Like” if you respect him.

by RACHEL HAYTER

My Facebook newsfeed is littered with images of suffering: a uniformed soldier cradling his child at an airport; a young girl who has lost her hair from cancer treatment; a bloodied newborn with his heart on the outside of his body; a chained dog who has been mutilated by his owners; a bruised woman who has been beaten by her husband.

The images always involve visual distress and come accompanied with a caption in the vein of: 1 like = 1 prayer; 1 like = 1 respect; ignore = you don’t care.

Gratuitous images like these exist in my newsfeed because people or organisations post them, with the sole ambition of increasing their online popularity. The image poster is exploiting the pain of the image’s subjects, to improve their own social media presence.

Your online interaction with the image serves as an endorsement of that exploitation. What makes this kind of blatant grab for likes more ugly, is its guise as a gesture of goodwill and concern for the image’s sufferer.

These images are not about raising awareness. If an image were intended for that purpose, specifics like name, time and place would be given. They’re not, so we aren’t to know which person, disease or war is accountable.

It’s even possible that these images have been gleaned from old sources and are five, even ten years old. Of course, this is irrelevant; your gut response and consequent ‘prayer’ or ‘respect’, represented by the clicking of a button, is all that really matters.

Click “like” if you feel bad for the dog!

Gut responses to images of people or animals in pain are just that. Humans feel empathy by instinct. Displaying your hard-wired capacity for empathy, without direction or application, by liking, commenting on and sharing these kinds of images is emotional pornography. It doesn’t make a skerrick of difference for the subjects featured.

What it achieves, is a cheap and nasty boost in activity for the poster of the image, and a deluded sense of do-goodery for the person interacting with that image.

For sincerity’s sake, when you’re confronted with an image in your newsfeed that tugs your heartstrings and urges for your all-powerful like – restrain yourself!

Instead, take your ‘1 prayer’ and ‘1 respect’ and next time you see a vendor spruiking The Big Issue, stop, have a chat and buy a copy. Donate some money or volunteer your time for Legacy, The Cancer Council, RSPCA, Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF – whomever floats your charitable boat.

But PLEASE, do the (Facebook) world a favour and take a stand against false advocacy and emotional pornography.

Rachel Hayter is a journalist and writer. You can read more from Rachel at amatterofbaobabs.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @racheltown

Blogger Daylan Pearce explains that these ’emotional porn’ posts aren’t just silly jokes, they’re actually a scam to benefit the owners of Facebook pages. Businesses use the high number of comments and ‘likes’ that these posts generate to ensure their products appear higher up in your Facebook feed. Daylan explains how the scam works:

I’m sure you knew it already, but these things are dodgy. Where there is profit to be made, there will be people who will figure out a way to game the system. This is one of the games. Best way to stop this stuff from occurring is to not promote this rubbish.

  1. A page is created.
  2. This page put out a constant stream of heart wrenching and/or mildly amusing images that are shared publicly with a call to action to click, share or comment.
  3. These posts are initially shared by a big group of people all in the same network who have all built up their edge rank over a period of time that then results in the posts eventually leaking into the newsfeeds of real-life accounts.
  4. These people share, like or comment which then spreads.
  5. Eventually a friend of yours hits that little thumbs up button
  6. It’s in your newsfeed.

And within 3 days a post like this one has 70,000 likes, and someone somewhere is about to make a nice little profit by selling the page to a business wanting some quick wins.

The buyer then changes some of the page details.BAM!Instant fanpage with a big following, lots of likes and an in depth edge rank. (edit: Page name cannot be altered after 200 likes, just details of the page)

Pro tip: If you do see a post about sick kids with rare cancer who lost all their family to a horrible house fire and if you don’t like it then 100 more children will get cancer from terrorists – it’s not real.  Don’t click on it.

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